The name and description of The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, caught my eye from a site advertising the previous book I reviewed, Between Shades of Gray. This book, too, I requested from the library thinking it might be of interest to my teenage daughter. And, again, it turned out to be more for me than her. The copy I received from the library was an audio format, which did make it more complicated to find time to get through the book, out of earshot of my kids, as a couple scenes in the book weren’t very kid-appropriate.
The story begins with a girl, Victoria, as she turns 18 and is emancipated from being a ward of the state her entire life – after a life of one foster home after another and one group home after another. She begins life on her own filled with feelings of anger, distrust, guilt, and a hope for a new beginning. The book alternates between her building a new life for herself at age 18 and the “new life” that she experienced at age 9, when, for the first time, she lived with a woman who gave her unwavering love and had wanted to adopt her. In addition to teaching Victoria trust and to accept love, Elizabeth taught her about flowers and how different flowers can be used to express different emotions and sentiments – the first being common thistle, expressing her feelings of anger at the world. Victoria begins her “new life,” at age 18, with a deep connection to flowers and their meanings and the desire for solitude. Her fond memories of her time with Elizabeth present the mystery of what went wrong that resulted in her going back to the foster care system.
As both stories unfold, the author takes the reader on Victoria’s new journey along with the backdrop of her past, giving insight into her reactions to life’s situations along with hope for a better future. The book carries with it messages of growing up, discovering more mature ways of seeing all aspects of life, searching for and recognizing a deeper side to the people and things around us, the importance of forming and developing relationships with others, getting past the road blocks we have set for ourselves as coping mechanisms at previous points in our lives, and of reconciliation.
A few days after finishing the audio of this book, I realized how subtly inspirational it was. I didn’t notice it while listening to it – I was too caught up in the unfolding of the life story of the main characters and in wanting things to work out for them.
While my life has been much different from that of the characters, I was able to relate to some of their experiences and responses. After completing the book, I found myself feeling closer to my husband, and making nice dinner meals for my family and washing dishes each night out of wanting to – not as a task to do at end of a long, tiring day. Just under my consciousness, I felt somewhat of a weight lifted from me in:
- a release from some of the guilt feelings for mistakes made that have haunted me for years;
- acceptance of having an “unconventional” home – and that’s ok;
- acceptance of my shortcomings as a parent and in my relationships with others;
- awareness of it being ok and necessary to just take small steps in the right direction rather than feeling guilty for not being able to handle it all and be where other people are in their lives; and
- a new awareness of other people’s limitations in dealing with life’s challenges and forming relationships.
I cannot explain why “reading” this book had these effects. I just hope that, little by little, they will reshape the patterns I have fallen into, bring me to reconciliation with the painful points in my past and help me to grow and blossom.